Make Us Some Propositions

The 2004 bond process had several stages

The 2004 bond package was developed by a volunteer 19-member Citizens Bond Advisory Committee appointed by Superintendent Pat Forgione and confirmed by the AISD board of trustees. The group included some construction professionals, and also worked with local architectural firms in developing review teams to assess campus physical needs. In early 2003, they began surveying principals, talking with maintenance workers, and touring schools to see what the district most urgently needed.

Bond preparation follows its own social science. Initially, the committee drafted a list of priority repairs that came to $600 million, but members were wary of proposing too much too fast and thereby driving voters to oppose the whole package. On the other hand, offending a powerful voting bloc by failing to include a pet project could also backfire. Data derived from polling and focus groups suggested strong support up to $400 million, but also that significant opposition emerged above $500 million. So the committee put together a $420 million draft package and held public hearings in February and March. In the hearings, the high dollar requests included a new science lab for Travis High and a performing arts center (in theory located at or near McCallum High). Also, Southwest parents wanted a new middle school. Others wanted the district to construct only "green" buildings.

After receiving the committee's report, the board of trustees finalized the package – grown to its current price tag of $519 million – released in May. They had rolled the environmental building standards and science lab upgrades (for many older schools, not just Travis) into the massive renovation propositions. But they also decided that the Southwest middle school and performing arts center would face voters on their own (paired together in Proposition 5), on the logic that both proposals emerged only after the regular process was finished. Depending on your point of view, Proposition 5 can also be considered a savvy – or cynical – attempt to provide mutual cover for two narrowly marketed proposals that might not pass on their own.

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public schools, Pat Forgione, citizens bond advisory committee, Austin ISD

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